Instagram is about much more than taking and posting gorgeous photos of your travels and selfies, following your fave celebs and posting updates your IG story. You can actually make money on it, too.
Yup, there’s a whole world of commerce out there in Insta-land, and you can totally make money selling the clothes you don’t wear anymore.
One quick search for hashtags that include #Instashop, #ShopMyCloset and #InstaSale, and you’ll find millions of posts of people looking to unload everything from rare Chanel handbags and vintage maxi dresses to pre-worn J.Crew.
Here’s how it works: Put in one of the top hashtags—say #ShopMyCloset—and pull up all the posts that use it. Browse through, find something you want to buy, and then comment on the photo telling the seller you want it. He or she will then work with you to finalize the purchase, usually using a payment service like PayPal.
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Follow the Lead of This Boutique
Instagram proved to be a surprise revenue stream for Ashley Steenhoven, who owns a small consignment store in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Bloom Designer Finds Boutique, which she opened in January 2014. When one of her employees suggested she get on Instagram to start selling pieces, Steenhoven agreed to give it a try, despite not exactly being a pro. “I’d never been on Instagram, at that point in my life,” she admits.
Within three months of joining, she racked up 1,000 followers (she now totals over 7,100). However, business began to take off quickly, which she credits to a mix of her use of hashtags and word-of-mouth among her pre-existing customer base.
Now, she says she totals between 30 to 40 sales a day from Instagram, which generate almost a quarter of her revenue. “We had a snow day this past winter, and closed the store, and I thought that day was going to be a wash, but I ended up making around $500 on Instagram,” she says.
As for what sells well on the platform, Steenhoven says, “Everything Lululemon… When we can hashtag something Lilly Pulitzer or J.Crew, that does well for us, but it could also be random jeans—you never know.”
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How a Blogger Sold Used Clothes on IG
Not everyone taking advantage of Instagram’s money-making potential are doing it as their full-time job like Steenhoven, but rather are using the network to make some extra cash. Meredith Haynes, based in Dallas, Texas, has been a blogger since 2007, and turned to selling used clothes on Instagram that she no longer needed.
“In the beginning I would post several small sales, but now I post two giant sales a year,” she says. “The clothes are seasonal. I sell fall-winter clothes in August and spring-summer clothes in March, and each sale is generally 60-75 items, ranging from clothes to pajamas to shoes.”
Obviously, Haynes has picked up a few tips and tricks along the way—namely that it’s important to price things to sell. “Even if you think a dress or shirt is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and is in mint condition, you have to be reasonable with what you charge. It took a few sales for me to get a good idea what people will pay for particular items. I really try to take the sentimentality out of the clothing and price it as objectively as possible.”
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How To Start Your Own Instagram Store
1. Start with a welcome post about who you are, including some background information, so people feel comfortable shopping from you.
2. Next, create a shopping policies post, giving it its own unique hashtag so you can refer to it in every future post. Think of things like shipping, when payment is required, if you are or aren’t willing to ship internationally. It’s also wise to include your email address so people know where to reach you should they have any questions.
3. Pros suggest including the shipping amount in your price. That’s because it becomes a headache to start adding shipping costs after someone has agreed to purchase from you. Just remember to make a note of that so your customers know exactly what they’re paying for. Also, consider offering a shipping bundle discount to encourage buyers to purchase multiple items.
4. When posting items for sale, use hashtags like #shopmycloset, #instacloset, #instasale and #clothesforsale, which will help people find your “store.”
5. Much like eBay, the go-to payment method on Instagram is PayPal, so make sure to set up an account. Many sellers will have shoppers leave their PayPal email address in the comments of a post to indicate that they want to buy something—it’s that simple. Keep in mind that PayPal takes a portion of each invoice, so factor that in when pricing your items.
6. When creating invoices, give detailed descriptions of items so buyers know exactly what they are purchasing. Send the invoice within 24 hours of the sale ending.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2015.